A new study shows that people who use cannabis are 22% more likely to visit the emergency department or be admitted to the hospital than those who don’t.
The study, which was led by researchers from Unity Health Toronto and ICES and published in BMJ Open Respiratory Research, found that serious physical injuries and breathing problems were the top two reasons why cannabis users went to the emergency room or were hospitalized (Vozoris et al., 2022).
The findings indicate a relationship between cannabis use and negative health outcomes. The researchers say this should show how important it is to teach and remind people about how bad cannabis is for their health. Since cannabis was no longer illegal in Canada in October 2018, more people are using it for fun.
Health Out Comes among Cannabis Users
Dr. Nicholas Vozoris, the study’s lead author and a respirologist at St. Michael’s as well as an associate scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, said, “Our research shows that cannabis use in the general population is linked to a higher risk of clinically serious negative outcomes, like having to go to the ED or be admitted to the hospital.”
“Unlike tobacco, there is some uncertainty or debate about how bad cannabis is for your health. Some people might think that cannabis has some health benefits and is harmless in other ways. Our research shows people who use cannabis or are thinking about using it that this behavior is linked to significant health problems.
Researchers combined survey data from persons who self-reported using cannabis with ICES health administrative data for Ontario citizens aged 12 to 65. This allowed them to compare the health outcomes of cannabis users and people who don’t use cannabis.
Researchers used a statistical method called “propensity score matching” to compare the health outcomes of nearly 4,800 people who said they had used cannabis in the past 12 months with the health outcomes of over 10,000 people who said they had never used cannabis or had only used it once more than 12 months ago. Researchers matched study participants based on 31 different factors to make the comparisons as fair as possible. These factors included demographics, multiple physical and mental health diseases, and tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drug use.
The main goal of the study was to find out if there was a link between using cannabis and going to the hospital or emergency room for problems with your lungs. Researchers didn’t find any strong links between using cannabis and going to the ER, being hospitalized, or dying from anything related to breathing. But they did find that cannabis users were much more likely to go to the emergency room or be hospitalized for any reason.
In addition to having a higher chance of going to the ED or being admitted to the hospital, the results show that one out of every 25 cannabis users would visit the emergency department (ED) or be hospitalized within a year of consuming cannabis.
Acute trauma, which is a body injury, was the most common reason cannabis users went to the ED or were hospitalized. Fifteen percent of cannabis users who got medical care did so for this reason, and fourteen percent did so for respiratory reasons.
“The results of our research show that healthcare professionals and the government should try to stop people from using cannabis for fun. Given that decriminalizing cannabis in Canada has likely led to more people using it, our health and political leaders need to do more to educate and remind people about how bad it is for their health, said Dr. Vozoris, a scientist at ICES.